October 11, 2013
Last week I delivered the keynote speech at the Purpose Built Communities (PBC) conference that took place in New Orleans. I was asked to do this because of Tulane’s commitment to community engagement and our role in the rebirth of New Orleans.
Purpose Built Communities, a concept developed by Atlanta philanthropist Tom Cousins, transforms distressed neighborhoods into thriving communities with high-quality mixed-income housing, effective cradle-to-college education, wellness/healthcare programs and recreational opportunities.
An example of a Purpose Built Community in New Orleans is Columbia Parc, a mixed-income residential community on the site of the former St. Bernard Public Housing Project. What used to be one of New Orleans’ most dangerous areas — with 684 felonies and 42 homicides between 2001 and 2005 — is now a safe and positive place that residents are proud to call home.
Columbia Parc features attractive townhomes, spacious garden-style apartments, a movie theater, playgrounds, a swimming pool, inviting indoor spaces for residents to socialize and participate in life skills workshops and a community garden developed with input from Tulane City Center. Perhaps most importantly, Columbia Parc just opened a state-of-the-art early learning center and plans are underway to add a world-class K-8 charter school.
I applaud the Purpose Built Communities approach because it highlights the importance of treating the causes of troubled neighborhoods, not just the symptoms. It’s a model that promises to break the cycle of social ills. Columbia Parc is an important part of our city and a vital partner in what Tulane students, faculty and staff are working toward each day: a New Orleans in which everyone can thrive. Even though we have one “traditional” PBC in New Orleans, we are rebuilding and enhancing several neighborhoods with many of the features of Purpose Built Communities. This approach offers much promise for the larger community as we continue to rebuild our city.
Have a great weekend,